Allan Kardec

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Indirect Psychography: Planchettes, &c. - Direct or Manual Psychography.

152. The development of the spiritist movement has been unusually rapid; for although we are separated only by a few years from its primitive manifestations, so often contemptuously alluded to as "table-turning," we are already enabled to converse with spirits as easily and rapidly as men converse with each other, and by the very same means, viz., by speech and by writing. Writing has the special advantage of furnishing a permanent evidence of the action of occult power; one which we are able to preserve as we preserve letters received from correspondents in the flesh. As previously remarked, the first method employed was the use of small baskets and planchettes with a pencil attached to them; which method of correspondence we will now briefly describe.

153. We have said that persons endowed with a special aptitude can produce a rotatory movement of a table, or other object. Let us suppose, in lieu of a table, that we employ the small basket or planchette alluded to in the beginning of the present work, with a pencil firmly fixed thereto, in such a manner as that the pencil will write upon a sheet of paper placed beneath it, if the basket or planchette be made to move; the pencil tracing scrawls and unmeaning marks, making attempts at writing, or writing legible and intelligible words. If the spirit evoked is willing to communicate, he will no longer answer by raps, but by written communications.

154. Several other contrivances have been invented, by means of which, communications of many pages may be obtained as rapidly as though written with the hand.

155. The acting intelligence often manifests itself by other signs equally conclusive; as when the pencil, having reached the bottom of the page, makes a spontaneous movement to turn over the leaf, or is moved back, over the same page, or over several pages, to some preceding word or passage, which it then underlines or effaces. Sometimes the pencil points to some one of the Company, to whom a message is especially addressed; sometimes it says "yes," or "no," by signs as expressive as our movements of head or hand; sometimes, in expressing anger or impatience, it strikes repeatedly on the table, and often so violently as to break its point.

156. In using these appliances, it is almost always necessary that two persons should concur; but it is not necessary that the second person should have the median- imic faculty, his concurrence being only needed to maintain the equilibrium of the instrument and to lessen the medium's fatigue.

157. We may designate writing thus obtained as indirect psychography, in contradistinction to direct or manual psychography, obtained by the hand of the medium himself. In the last-named operation, the communicating spirit acts directly upon the medium; the medium, under this influence, holds the pencil, as though about to write, when his hand will be made to write, and often without his knowing what he is writing.

In all cases of spirit-writing, it is not that the planchette or the pencil becomes intelligent; for they are merely the instruments of an intelligence. Whatever the instrument employed, it is only a pencil-holder; an intermediary between the hand and the pencil. Suppress the intermediary, put the pencil into the medium's hand, and you will have the same result, but much more simply obtained, since the medium will now write as he does in his normal state; thus, every one who writes with a planchette, or other instrument, can obtain direct writing. Of all means of communication, writing with the hand, sometimes designated as involuntary writing, is the simplest, easiest, and most convenient, because it requires no preparation, and is as available as common writing. We shall return to this subject when we treat of mediums.

158. When spirit-manifestations first became known, and while ideas were vague and confused with regard to them, several works were published under the title of Communications of a Basket, of a Planchette, of a Table, &c. We now understand how erroneous were such titles, and how little serious was the character of those communications; for tables, planchettes, &c., are nothing but instruments without intelligence, although vitalised for the moment with an artificial ]life; instruments utterly unable to communicate anything of themselves. The writers alluded to mistook the effect for the cause, the instrument for the agent; an author might just as well state on his title-page that his book was written by a steel pen or by a goose-quill. These instruments, moreover, are not the only ones that can be used; we know a medium, who, instead of the basket or the planchette, used a funnel, in the gullet of which he placed his pencil. Communications, then, can be given through a funnel; we might also get them through a saucepan, or a salad-drainer. If manifestations come by rappings, and these rappings are made by a chair or a walking-stick, it is no longer a question of talking tables, but of talking chairs and talking sticks. What we really want to know, is, not the nature of the instrument employed, but the mode of obtaining communications. If a communication comes by writing, so that all we want is a pencil, we call it psycho- graphy; if it comes by raps, we call it psychography. Spiritism being destined to attain the certainty of a science, requires specific terms for the various orders of phenomena with which it deals.

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